As I’ve previously mentioned, trying to maintain friendships when you literally can’t leave your own house is difficult, but an incredibly important part of self-care to prevent yourself from sinking into a swamp of loneliness and isolation. Either you rely on friends to come over, or you don’t see them. So how can you go about maintaining those important connections when you can’t really socialise?
100 years ago, you would have had two options: go and see your friends, or write them a letter. Even 20 years ago, it would have been that or an expensive phone call. Thankfully, we now live in an age where instantaneous communication is cheap and accessible. A lot of this post will focus on the ways that we can use technology to maintain connections, but I will talk about some other things too.
On that note…
1) Invite people over
It seems pretty basic, but a lot of the time people will a chronic illness will have a messy house, no energy, and a big sense of shame. It’s hard to have the confidence to ask people over in those circumstances, because it seems more like an imposition than an invitation. Sometimes, though, you just have to bite the bullet and say, “Hey, I’m really sick and my house is a mess, but I really want to see you. Could you come over and watch a movie with me? Dress code: pyjamas.” Good friends will do it. You just have to put yourself out there. It gets easier with practice.
There are plenty of things you can do as a bed-ridden endo-monster at stay-at-home gatherings – card games, video games, movies, scoffing pizza, doing a youtube tutorial together. Shared experiences are so important for keeping connections and games, movies and fun activities will always make even a messy sick-house more appealing.
2) Make regular phone calls
I am shocking at this, so me writing this is total hypocrisy. I think it’s a millennial thing. I don’t know any millennials who enjoy making calls, and I work in an office surrounded by people who make calls for a living (which I must confess does kill your desire to make calls for fun). However, hearing someone’s voice is a really good way to reconnect, and I tend to find that once I actually bite the bullet and make the call I end up chatting for ages. It’s quicker and easier than texting or typing and the conversation can just flow. Make it a regular thing. Make a calling-people schedule, or set aside an afternoon where you just call people.
3) Make group chats
Facebook, Viber, Whatsapp, WeChat – some of the many hundreds of apps that allow everyone to chat together. My friends and I are all on Whatsapp. It took me forever to get on there, but once I was, I was back in the loop. You can either be an active participant or more of a quiet listener. Either way, it’s such a good way to catch up with friends.
4) Follow them on social media
This sounds a bit silly, perhaps, but I love seeing my friends on instagram. I love to see what sights they have seen today, or what mad things they’ve done. I don’t live near three of them, so getting to actually see little slices of their lives is super exciting for me.
Twitter is another great one if your friends are active tweeters. Learn what random thoughts are going on in their heads, and use it for conversations.
Snapchat can also be fun. Share snaps with each other to keep your friends updated about what you are up to and make them giggle with silly captions, or check out what they are sending to you.
5) Play games on shared apps
Maybe both of you love Words with Friends. Maybe chess is more your thing, or Ticket to Ride. There are so many game apps that let you play with or against friends. It isn’t really a forum for D&Ms, but it is a good way of keeping that relationship there on a casual level, as well as having a bit of fun.
6) Support their endeavours
If your friends have a blog, youtube channel or podcast, listen/watch/read. You may not be able to support them by attending their events in person, but you can up their views and give them honest support and feedback about their stuff. It shows that you are engaged with them, proud of them, and committed to supporting them. One of my friends is a playwright and it just kills me that I can rarely if ever get to see one of her shows, but if she is in town doing a preview, you can bet your backside that I will do my darndest to make it there. Likewise, share your stuff with them – if you have written an article, recorded a song, done a cool piece of art, let your friends know.
7) Write letters
Ok, it is super old fashioned, but it can be so touching to get an actual physical letter from someone. You don’t need an occasion; just write down what you love about them and mail it out. It will be a nice surprise for them and show them that you are thinking of them. You can make it extra special by getting all craftsy with it – do some doodles, add some scrapbooking embellishments, or learn some fancy calligraphy. It’s not something you need to or can do all the time, but every now and then it is just a special way of connecting.
8) Take advantage of the good days
When you are well, let everyone know. Shout it from the rooftops. “I CAN WALK TODAY, WHO WANTS BRUNCH?” Even if you have to go home after a while, being able to go out and catch a movie or go to someone else’s house is an important break in the monotony, a chance for some new scenery, and a way of showing that when you can reciprocate, you will and do. It also gives you a physically shared experience to reminisce about later, which is so important.
As I said, these may seem really basic and uninspired. However, when I’m falling into the doldrums these are exactly the kind of things I know I should do, but too often don’t. I can’t emphasise enough the importance of having a connection to the outside world, and ultimately, half the burden of maintaining that does fall on us, sick or not.
What do you do to keep in touch with friends when you are really sick? Any avenues that I’ve forgotten here? Has there been a time when you’ve felt awful and your friends have really come through for you? Let me know in the comments.